In Rome Pope Benedict XV died in the Vatican January 22, 1922, and his successor Pope Pius XI was elected by the consistory of bishops in the Sistine Chapel February 6, 1922 in a smooth institutional transition nearly two thousand years old.
In the eastern Orthodox church, however, secular politics intruded more than ever. Orthodox Greeks, under the patriarch at Constantinople, lived both in the Ottoman Empire and in Greece. Most of the former were Venizelists while the Greeks in “old” or southern Greece were not.
Meletios Metaxakis was born in Crete, energetic and very active in Orthodox church politics. A supporter of fellow Cretan Venizelos, he was elected as Metropolitan or archbishop of Athens in 1918 but was deposed after Venizelos lost the election in 1920. He undertook two lecture trips to the US to organize the Greeks in the diaspora there into an Archdiocese. In December 1921 he was narrowly elected as Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios IV by a synod of bishops in Constantinople, where he was jubilantly welcomed in February 1922. In royalist Athens, however, seven bishop-electors declared his election invalid, although as Gilbert wrote, “God is distinctly on the side of the big battalions.”
In addition, as Gilbert also noted, the Turkish Sultan, who had always exercised the right of approving or rejecting the Orthodox Patriarch in Constantinople, rejected the appointment. Since the Allied occupation of the city, however, the Allies claimed that right and so did the nascent Turkish assembly in far-off Ankara; both rejected Meletios. The following year, after revising the Orthodox calendar, he would be forced to flee Constantinople and resign. Later he would be elected Patriarch of Alexandria.
Leave A Comment